Here's why The Best of Both Worlds represents Star Trek: The Next Generation at its very best.
Fathom Event’s recent one-night showing of Star Trek: The Next Generation- The Best of Both Worlds takes us back to a heady day in Science Fiction television, marking an important historical period for both the franchise and the genre in general. Those of us who are old enough to remember its original screening in 1990 can’t help but smile: The Best of Both Worlds ranks as a top 10 – if not a top 2 – cliffhanger. Well-conceived and heavy on special effects, and complete with as gut-punch of a season finale as you could get, Worlds captivated an audience for an entire summer, as fans lamented about the fate of Captain Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart, X-Men) after his capture and alteration by the Borg.
At that time, Trek was the only game in town. Fans of the genre, dying for anything set in deep space, were forced to endure two years of almost unwatchable Trek, as Picard and company fumbled their way through space. Fans grew restless as Producer and Series Creator Gene Roddenberry reminded us that his true vision of Star Trek was in fact a character-driven escape and less of the ‘Wild West in Space’ mentality of its classic predecessor. Season 3 represented the last try for many fans, and luckily the franchise stepped up. The Enemy, The Vengeance Factor, and The Defector were just part of an impressive slew of episodes which at least began to scratch the surface that The Original Series had attained on a weekly basis.
And although it debuted as an instant classic, this two-parter would also offer disturbing clues as to the franchise’s future: character development lost in a dizzying array of ‘Trekno-babble,’ unnecessary characters given more screen time than they ever deserved, and the human punching bag known as the Klingon Worf. But above all, the name ‘Rick Berman’ would do more to run this franchise aground than any Borg or omnipotent life form ever could. Sliced and diced into high-priced ‘best of’ discs and three other spinoffs – each of which less successful than the other – the franchise folded in 2005. But in 1990, no one was prepared for Worlds.
Fathom’s one-night release excels in nearly every way, from the excellent pre-show supplements and interviews to the booming upgraded audio track. Every phaser blast and starship explosion is cleaned up, along with ambient sounds such as bridge chatter and Borg Ship atmospherics. Colors and details on uniforms are sharp throughout, and facial features are lifelike. My only complaint lies in Paramount’s decision not re-shoot the special effects. Unlike CBS’ brilliant re-imagining for The Original Series, these scenes originally shot with models are merely cleaned up, sans a tantalizing CGI explosion of the Borg vessel near the end. It’s clear what Paramount is planning: release the seasons without much change to the special effects, and completely re-do them for the 30th Anniversary release. Part of Trek’s downfall included placing premium pricing on their products, which would eventually knock loyal fans and curious new ones out of the market. Depending upon how you feel about that will ultimately determine whether the impending home release of this two-parter is worth your time.
The historical significance of Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Best of Both Worlds cannot be denied, both in terms of its scale and scope. And while the series never fully reached this pinnacle again, we can look back on the one time in which it did.
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